Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Democrats finally do something right

It's not much, but I appreciate them for this:

22-second Senate session guards against Bush appointments


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Gavel to gavel, the Senate on Tuesday met for just 22 seconds — a fleeting moment in the life of a sometimes droning body, but long enough to keep President Bush from making "recess" appointments that Democrats might not like.

Senators have been taking turns standing sentry duty this week — just to prevent Bush from circumventing the confirmation process by immediately installing people in federal posts while the chamber is in recess. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who carried out that less than glamorous task Tuesday, is a relative newcomer, a low-ranking freshman and a senator who lives just minutes from the Capitol; he wielded his gavel before an empty chamber Tuesday, devoid of senators and even the young pages who serve as messengers.

"I'd much rather be doing this than allow the president to skirt the confirmation process in the Senate," Webb said in a statement. "This is an exercise in protecting the Constitution and our constitutional process."

The Senate must confirm major presidential appointments and judicial nominations, providing a constant source of confrontation between the White House and Senate Democrats. But when the Senate is off, as it is now for the Thanksgiving holiday, the president can make recess appointments that are not subject to confirmation hearings. These appointees can serve until the end of the congressional session, which at this point would be until Bush leaves office.

Among the more controversial recess appointments Bush has made have included John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations and Sam Fox, a GOP fundraiser and contributor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign, as ambassador to Belgium.

Showing the level of distrust between the White House and the Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that he would employ, apparently for the first time, what are called "pro forma" sessions as a tactic to technically keep the Senate on the job and stop recess appointments.

A pro forma session, during which no legislative business is conducted, satisfies the constitutional obligation that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other.

These pro forma sessions will continue throughout the current holiday recess.

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